By RON DEUTER
FELCH - North Dickinson's girls will play for a district basketball title.
Ron Deuter/The Daily News Photos
North Dickinson’s Gina Rotter (20) dribbles in just ahead of shooting a go-ahead jumper in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s Class D District 126 semifinal. Mid Peninsula’s Kelsey Shope (5) defends as North Dickinson’s Miranda Jacobson (30) and Mid Peninsula’s Sarah Hanson (21) follow the play.
Storming back from a dismal first half, the Nordics shook off Mid Peninsula 45-41 in front of a spirited crowd at Carl F. Lemin Gymnasium Wednesday night.
The Nordics travel to Stephenson for Friday night's Class D District 126 final, which tips off at 6 p.m. The Eagles defeated Carney-Nadeau 80-38 in the district's other semifinal Wednesday evening.
A 10-point first half had the Nordics down 19-10 to the Wolverines at the break. Keyed by Lexi Steele and Gina Rotter, ND nailed five 3-pointers in a 21-point third quarter to grab a lead it would never lose.
"We had a big third quarter," Nordics head coach Mike Roell said. "I told the girls we had to shoot the outside shot. Mid Pen was packing it in, in their zone, I said we have to make some shots if we don't make shots, we're going to lose, plain and simple."
Steele connected three times in the frame. Rotter canned two more, and Chelsey Stroud, who finished with nine points, buried a corner gem as Mid Peninsula, which opened the game with a 13-2 lead, was left to wonder what hit them.
"They're a streaky shooting team," Mid Peninsula head coach Bobby Reichel said. "Once they hit a couple, I knew we had to switch to man to try to limit it. Granted, they hit some good shots. Steele hit one way out there."
Steele finished with nine points.
"She hit the first one and it was like a lid was lifted off the basket," Roell said. "We had some big threes, some big shots when we needed them."
Steele's second three of the third quarter gave North Dickinson its first lead of the game at 21-19 with 5:30 to play in the frame.
Rotter led ND with 13 points. In addition to her two triples, she was 5-for-6 at the foul line in the second half. North Dickinson only missed one of its eight free throws in the game, all those attempts happening after halftime.
A short jumper by Rotter put the Nordics in front for good at 35-33 with just under five minutes to play.
Miranda Jacobson finished with double-double numbers of 12 points and 16 rebounds. She had a key putback in the fourth quarter, putting the Nordics ahead at 33-31. She later helped preserve the lead with a clutch pair of free throws.
Roell said the success from the outside helped open things up for the Nordics down low.
"It opened up some offensive rebounding, and we got some putbacks," he said. "I couldn't be prouder of these kids. They could have packed it in at halftime when things didn't look so good."
Riding the momentum of their upset win over Bark River-Harris, Mid Peninsula owned the first quarter of action. Kelsey Shope was about unstoppable early, scoring 11 of her game-high 20 points in the first quarter.
"Shope was dominant early," Roell said. "But I thought Lexi did an outstanding job on her. After making her first few, Shope really had to work hard for everything."
The hot start stalled in the second quarter for the Wolverines, but with ND also struggling to score, it remained a nine-point game at half.
Shope was scoreless in the third quarter but got a few to fall late in the game, including a big trey with about three minutes to play that brought the Wolverines within one at 37-36.
But Rotter responded with dagger of a three to ease the threat.
North Dickinson also had to contend with the power game of Hunter Branstrom late. She put in nine of her 13 in the final quarter. A Branstrom drive for two with a free throw made it a one-possession game with 30 seconds left.
But again it was Rotter with the answer, sinking a free throw to help seal the win.
"We put things together and pulled it out," Roell said. "The second half, no doubt, was as good as we've played all year."
The Nordics were shorthanded from the get go with starter Elizabeth Charlevoix out with the flu.
"I expected Mid Pen to be on a high, they were going to come at us," Roell said. "We didn't handle that first wave of enthusiasm well and got behind early.
"There was some panic in my kids and at halftime, I just said shoot the three. We made two or three and all the sudden we were back in the game. This was a big win here for us."
Reichel said once the game tightened, his girls felt the pressure.
"We started getting a little panicky," he said. "ND's defense was tough and it was hard for us to getting the ball open."
A bit overcome with the loss, Reichel said expressed how proud he was of his team. The Wolverines finished the year 10-12, the best mark for the school in nearly a decade.
"This team, that's why I am crying, because they're just great," he said. "You see how hard I coach. They take everything. I think most teams would pack their bags and not listen to me.
"I don't know if I'll get a group of girls like this again. They're awesome. There's only good things to say to about them. They're good kids, good students, good off the court. I couldn't get a better group."
North Dickinson (8-13), once a 2-11 team, was swept by Stephenson this season. The season was just seven games old after the second meeting.
Mid Peninsula 15 4 8 14 - 41
North Dickinson 6 4 21 14 - 45
MID PENINSULA: Westland 4, Shope 20, Hanson 2, Gudwer 2, Branstrom 13. FT: 4-13. F: 8.
NORTH DICKINSON: Rotter 13, Steele 9, Jacobson 12, Stroud 9, Steinbrecher 2. FT: 7-8. F: 13.
FGs - ND: 16-56 (3-pt: 6-26). 3-pt FGs - MP: Shope; ND: Steele (3), Rotter (2)Stroud. Reb - ND: 36 (Jacobson 16).